{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for victims of a massive earthquake in Haiti and urged the international community to provide generous assistance to the stricken population of the Caribbean nation.

The Pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience Jan. 13, some 12 hours after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti, toppling buildings and causing widespread destruction.

Pope meets, forgives Christmas Eve attacker

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - As a sign of his forgiveness, Pope Benedict XVI met with the woman responsible for knocking him down during a Christmas Eve Mass, a papal spokesman said.

The Pope met with Susanna Maiolo after leading his weekly general audience Jan. 13 in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a written statement.

Charges dropped against refugee advocate

{mosimage}Charges against an American refugee advocate for bringing 12 Haitians to the U.S.-Quebec border where they claimed refugee status were quietly dropped in November.

Janet Hinshaw-Thomas — founder of Prime — Ecumenical Commitment to Refugees in Pennsylvania and niece of the late theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles — was arrested in Lacolle, Que., Sept. 28, 2007. She had called ahead to say she was bringing 12 Haitian asylum-seekers. She had often brought refugees to Canadian border posts to file for refugee status.

Pope's calendar full for 2010

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has said goodbye to 2009, but his 2010 calendar is already being filled.

On the horizon for the next 12 months are four papal trips; a Middle East Synod of Bishops; the expected publication of a document on the Bible and the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth; a major gathering of the world’s priests; a pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin; a probable consistory and several likely canonizations and beatifications — including that of Pope John Paul II.

Sainthood causes advanced for John Paul II, Pius XII

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII, declaring that both had lived lives of “heroic virtues.”

In signing the decrees Dec. 19, the Pope confirmed the recommendations of Vatican officials who have studied the causes for several years. Both popes can be beatified once a miracle is attributed to their intercession.

D&P prepared in case Philippines volcano erupts

{mosimage}Filipinos will be happy to see the back of 2009. As Christmas approaches the Filipino community is bracing for another natural disaster in their home country.

The Mayon volcano, a 2,460-metre mountain in central Philippines, has been spewing lava, smoke and ash in a mild state of eruption since mid-December. Volcanologists expect the mountain to erupt more severely any day, and state authorities have called out police, soldiers and others to try to keep 47,000 evacuees in temporary shelters from sneaking back into their homes for Christmas.

After Copenhagen, churches must educate voters, say climate activists

{mosimage}In the wake of what some describe as a tepid climate agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark, Catholic activists say church groups must focus on educating voters and lawmakers about climate science and policy.

Faith, economics and the environment are interconnected, Kathy McNeely of the Maryknoll Global Concerns Office , who was in Copenhagen for the first week of the UN Climate Change Conference , told Catholic News Service.

Irish bishop resigns over his handling of clerical sexual abuse 

{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland  - Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick has resigned after weeks of pressure over his handling of clerical sexual abuse when he served in the Dublin archdiocese.

Speaking Dec. 17 after the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted his resignation, Murray told a large congregation in St. John's Cathedral in Limerick, "I humbly apologize once again to all who were abused as little children."

G20 interfaith summit gains steam

{mosimage}When the 2010 G8 meeting in Huntsville, Ont., morphed into a G20 meeting in Toronto, organizers of the 2010 World Religious Summit were unfazed.

“We saw this coming,” said Canadian Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton. “So we took this into consideration in the planning.”

Diplomatic surge needed for Afghanistan, not military

{mosimage}A “diplomatic surge,”  including talks with willing Taliban leaders, should be the next step in Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, the majority of Canadian churches have told Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The governing council of the Canadian Council of Churches sent a letter and detailed brief to the Prime Minister Dec. 10 urging the government to invest heavily in diplomacy before Canada begins withdrawing troops in 2011.

Tony Blair Foundation teams up with McGill University

{mosimage}McGill University has become the first Canadian academic institute, and the fourth university worldwide, to partner with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalization Initiative and expand its research on religious issues.

The foundation was launched by former British Prime Minister Blair in May 2008 to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.